Who do you respect the most in your life? Did they demand that you respect them or did they earn it over time? And if they offered you advice, would you take it?
The Adventurer turned 13 in October. A while back, she came to me with an idea for a project.
“Mom, I want to do something to help parents and kids have better relationships, you know, like we do.”
She went on to tell me how her friends don’t get along well with their parents, how they try to tell their parents as little as possible, how they can’t seem to talk to their parents about important stuff. They are always being told what to do, but their parents won’t listen to their opinions.
Basically, her friends were asking for her advice. She was unsure if she could help them.
We discussed, at length, why we get along so well. I explained that her friend’s parents are trying to do what’s best for them. No parent wants to fight with a tween or teen, but they may not realize that there is another way.
I don’t have all the answers. I only know what works for us.
I began worrying and preparing for the teen years when the Adventurer was five. I’ve always been convinced that it does not need to be horrible. Like any solid relationship, ours is based on trust and respect. And it’s a two way street. I respect her opinions and she respects mine.
We do not always agree! But we can agree to disagree.
She’s old enough to call me on it when I’m not being sensitive to her needs, like she did on this Monday. She knows she can be honest and I’ll listen and take her thoughts, feelings and ideas seriously. She feels heard, supportive and loved. She knows that I’m on her side, even if I don’t agree with her point of view.
Why should you show respect to your kids?
It’s simple. They deserve it. Not because of anything they’ve done or haven’t done, but because they ARE.
Respectful parenting is demanding and often harder than the traditional authoritative approach. We don’t dish out punishments and expect the girls to blindly accept the “because I said so” explanation.
It requires parents to see their kids as whole beings whose feelings and needs matter.
It requires a letting go of many traditional parenting practices, like bribes and punishments.
(If that’s a problem, do you mind if I ask how it’s working out? Is your child obedient to you out of fear? And do you want them to fear you or respect you?)
Here are some of the things I do to keep my connections strong and to encourage trust with my little women.
19 Ways to Show Respect to your Children
- Talk with them, not at them.
- Validate their feelings. Hear what they are saying and reflect it back to them. Their feelings are real. Don’t belittle them. Validate their experiences. They may not perceive the world the same way you do. That’s okay.
- Make eye contact when you are talking with them.
- Be fully present when they ask for your attention.
- Ask them questions. What are your biggest dreams? What are you afraid of? Ask these questions, not to probe and pry, but to know and understand them better.
- Hear their answers.
- Encourage their dreams.
- Take their fears seriously. They may not be logical to you, but they are very real to them.
- Give them the power to choose how they spend their free time.
- Show an interest in their hobbies. Join them.
- Believe in them.
- Then tell them so.
- Give them as much of your time as they want.
- Let them be who they are. Embrace and celebrate their uniqueness.
- Don’t compare them to the kid next door. Or their siblings, cousins or anyone.
- Recognize that their friendships, activities and emotions are just as important to them as yours are to you.
- Speak well of them to others and speak kindly to them.
- Treat them the way you would like to be treated! It seems so simple, right? You don’t want to be yelled at, patronized or criticized. Neither do they!
- Say Yes more. This usually requires me to let go of something. Example: The Butterfly wanted to use a bookcase to create a “doll hotel.” We’re short on shelf space for the massive collection of books I’ve acquired. Initially, I said no. Where would I put the books? The next time she asked, I thought,” Does it really matter if the books are homeless for a little while?” A yes followed. I helped her move the books. She created her hotel, complete with a “working” elevator made from a box and yarn. Before you say no, ask yourself why not?
Showing your child respect will change your relationship.
Being a respectful parent is not always easy. I struggle and fail often. Sometimes, I seem to lose my mind completely and revert back to my old ways of yelling and threatening. But I’m working on it daily. I’ve found that our kids will listen and cooperate when requests are sincere, expectations are fair and both are presented in a considerate way.
Want to know more about the supporting research and long term benefits of peaceful, respectful parenting? Want to learn how to bring positive changes to your home in a peaceful way? Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
- The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction and Self Harm, by Karyn Hall and Melissa Cook